Trucking companies using the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) e-manifest system report that although border crossings are smoother, workload and costs have increased.

The lion’s share of the benefits reaped from the ACE program went to large- and medium-sized carriers, according to a report published by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), the research arm of the American Trucking Assns., that details how the e-manifest system impacts the productivity and efficiency of trucking companies. This is because they are more likely to realize returns to scale to offset the substantial initial investment to comply, ATRI said.

“For some small carriers, the new technology may be the impetus to cease border crossing operations,” the ATRI summary stated.

ATRI reported that the ACE program appears to be successfully targeting vehicles needing inspections, with a 50% reduction in secondary inspections, but a 42% increase in post-secondary checks.

While secondary inspections have dropped 50%, those vehicles that undergo a second check are more likely to be inspected a third time than was the case prior to the ACE program. ATRI said this appears to confirm that the ACE program has improved the process of vetting vehicles for targeted inspections.

Border crossing experiences were reportedly very different in the north from the south. Carriers crossing the northern border said paperwork and communication with brokers were the key challenges, whereas inspection and processing times were top issues in the south.

“Limited physical infrastructure” was cited as the biggest problem at both borders. Carriers also said that there is a need to have consistent processes and paperwork requirements at all border crossings.

ATRI issued the following recommendations to Customs and Border Protection (CBP):

  • Improve the functionality and usability of the ACE web portal;
  • Develop XML data transfer mechanisms to augment EDI transactions;
  • Continue to improve training for CBP officers;
  • Standardize the processing requirements across all border crossing points;
  • Provide motor carriers with additional ACE e-manifest training opportunities; and
  • Develop training and educational materials for brokers and shippers to increase familiarity with ACE requirements.

The research summary is available at ATRI’s website, where the full report is also available for order.